AFTER lying in a drawer for 30 years, a great-grandmother’s true-life story of her immense challenge raising twins with autism has finally been published.
Enid Mary Stanton, 81, currently lives at Diaz Old Age Home in Alexandria, but calls her Bloemfontein smallholding home. Her daughter Felicity McNamara lives on an Alexandria farm and after years of persuading her mother to have her book published, was finally able to get it done when Stanton had a nasty fall and needed special care.
She is recovering well and was in good spirits when TotT interviewed her at Diaz Home last weekend.
She titled her book, Through a Glass, Darkly – taken from the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12.
Felicity was the first-born of her siblings, and was two years old when her mother gave birth to twins Kevin and Steven. Stanton’s overwhelming joy was soon clouded by the realisation that her boys were not normal. What follows is a story of a mother’s fierce love and sheer determination to do the best she can to get the most out of life for her boys.
With all the visits the family made to doctors to see how the twins could be treated, Stanton began keeping a diary of what was happening in the boys’ lives.
“It was easier than explaining things over and over to the doctors,” she said.
At first the family did not know what was wrong with the twins as autism was not commonly known.
At first the family did not know what was wrong with the twins as autism was not commonly known. As babies they seemed apathetic and reluctant to feed properly. Of the two, Kevin was worse off and a neurologist confirmed a brain haemorrhage occurred at birth.
At the age of two the boys started attending a school for cerebral palsied children. Steven began to show a violent temper. The twins were hospitalised to have extensive brain tests done.
“It was only later, at Martin du Plessis School in Bloemfontein, when the inspector came around and spent a lot of time with the twins and said he thinks it’s autism. They were about four then,” Stanton said.
“We went to Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town where there was a doctor who was the only authority on autism in the country.”
A heart-wrenching decision was made when the principal at Steven’s school insisted that Kevin should be institutionalised
Amid Kevin’s destructiveness and Steven’s bad temper, the family found that Steven had an aptitude for music and art. There seemed to be no hope for Kevin, as the school said his mental disability was too great.
A heart-wrenching decision was made when the principal at Steven’s school insisted that Kevin should be institutionalised to give Steven a better chance in life. Kevin was placed in a mental institution at the age of six.
“We put Steven in a special school in Pretoria, Unica. He was very happy there and was allowed to stay until he was 23. I dedicated the book to Unica,” Stanton said.
She continued writing about the twins’ journey until they were 23. Currently Steven lives in a sheltered workshop in Bloemfontein and visits his mother every weekend when she is in Bloemfontein. Stanton also visits Kevin in the mental institution, but less frequently now as she has gotten older and more frail.
There is a deep melancholy in Stanton’s story, but it is not all sad
There is a deep melancholy in Stanton’s story, but it is not all sad. The book is also balanced with funny anecdotes and gives a glimpse into life on the smallholdings near Bloemfontein during the years the twins were growing up.
Originally a handwritten collection of diary notes, a friend of Stanton’s typed it up for her on an old typewriter about 30 years ago.
“Then we put it in a computer, on an old floppy disc – but it corroded,” she said. Fortunately the typed version was still lying in a drawer at her smallholding, and as things worked out, her daughter was finally able to get the manuscript and put it in digital form.
The book is self-published in hardcover, and the first batch already sold out. A second batch is being printed in softcover. It will be available at the Kowie News Agency, Kenton News Agency and Fogarty’s in Port Elizabeth.
“Autism is still a mystery,” Stanton said. “I don’t know all the answers.”